RIO DE JANEIRO: At least 42 inmates were killed in clashes in four prisons in northern Brazil on Monday (May 27), authorities said, a day after violence in one of the jails left 15 people dead.
The victims appeared to have been killed by "asphyxiation," the Amazonas state government said in a statement, after the latest deadly clashes to rock the country's severely overpopulated and violent prison system.
At least 27 of the victims were in the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, where all four prisons are located.
The federal government has dispatched reinforcements to boost security.
"I just spoke with (justice) minister Sergio Moro, who is sending a prison intervention team to Amazonas so that he can help us in this moment of crisis," state governor Wilson Lima said in the statement.
Despite the deadly violence in his jails, Lima noted that increased security in the state had resulted in a reduction in the "number of homicides, robberies."
An investigation launched into Sunday's mass killing at the Anisio Jobim Penal Complex has been widened to include Monday's deaths.
Four of those killed in the latest violence were found at the Anisio Jobim jail, which was also the scene of a prison rebellion that lasted almost 20 hours and left 56 people dead in January 2017.
Another five were killed at the Provisional Detention Center for Men and six died at the Puraquequara Prison Unit.
'OVERCROWDING AND UNDERSTAFFING'
Brazil has the world's third largest prison population, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics.
The population is double the capacity of the nation's jails, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.
The federal government had expected to add another 115,000 inmates by the end of 2018, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.
"Overcrowding and understaffing make it impossible for prison authorities to maintain control within many prisons, leaving detainees vulnerable to violence and recruitment into gangs," it said.
Along with severe overcrowding and gang violence, riots and breakout attempts in Brazil's prisons are not uncommon.
Sunday's clashes at the Anisio Jobim Penal Complex broke out around 11:00 am (1500 GMT) during visiting hours at the facility.
"It was a fight between the inmates. There had never been deaths during the visits," Colonel Marcos Vinicius Almeida told reporters.
Some of the inmates were stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes, Almeida said.
He emphasized that authorities had reacted within minutes to the violence, preventing a potentially worse result.